Empty. There were no thoughts the flittered through his head at the moment. There were no emotions swirling about his heart. His eyes were tearless as he looked about his empty bedroom of his childhood home. And he turned out the lights. He didn’t want to see the emptiness anymore.
“Sunggyu-yah,” his mother called to him as softly as her feet pattered against the hardwood. She put a hand on his shoulder, lightly pulling him away from the dark room. “It’s time to go.”
Sunggyu let out a deep sigh as he nodded and bent down to pick up his last box of things, filled with the remainders of his adolescence: old report cards, school awards (maybe even an athletic one), children’s books, old CDs, outdated audio tapes, a photo album from high school, his first cell phone, and an old tattered stuffed dog that he refused to part with. These things may be junk, should have been junk and tossed out with the trash and dust bunnies, but to Sunggyu, these were things that made up his Home.
And now his Home wasn’t his anymore. His mother had sold it to some strangers. But nothing would be as strange as walking through the halls of his Home, like he had thousands upon thousands times, with everything completely empty. Everything was so exposed. Sunggyu hated it. The whole Home seemed to be shouting at him to get out and pushing him like his mother was pushing him out the door now.
“You better get on the road so it’s still daylight when you get to Seoul,” she told him. Both of them were outside now, and Sunggyu’s mother was busying herself with the lock on the front door, shutting in all of those memories inside.
“Okay, Mom,” Sunggyu grumbled as he fumbled with his own set of keys, trying to unlock his car and get the Hell out of here. Eventually, he accepted the fact that he’d actually have to put down the box in order to open the car up.
Which gave his mother enough time to catch up. As soon as he straightened up and unlocked his car, his mother appeared in front of him and began tidying up his strands of hair that fell out of place. “It’s been a hard weekend for you,” her tone was still soft and full of concern. She was walking on eggshells waiting for her son to crack. “First the wedding in Busan, moving me out of Jeonju, and now going back to Seoul? I bet it’s tiring. I wish that your special friend could help you.”
Sunggyu groaned at that (and because his back was sore from moving). Special friend, his father had coined that phrase years back, when he had rightly suspected that Sunggyu’s friend was more than just a friend. And it stuck, even now when his father was no longer around. Sunggyu wasn’t quite sure if he was more aggravated at his mother (playfully) clinging onto the nickname or the fact that his special friend had left him alone to deal with perhaps one of the most difficult weekends of his adult life. Or maybe it was really because of the pain in his back. The groan dissolved into a whimper. His mother caught on and began rubbing his sore back.
“He’s busy,” Sunggyu reminded his mother and himself. “The market never closes when you’re dealing with clients from around the world.”
“I wish the both of you would stop working so hard,” she chided as she kept kneading her son’s back. “You two will make all of this money, but for what? Send each other to an early grave? Fine! The money will line your coffins. That’s the only way you’ll get any use out of it.”
Sunggyu rolled his eyes and moved away from his mother’s hands. “So that we can retire early and take care of you,” he tried to distract his mother with a false show of filial piety. “The three of us could finally make that trip to Greece that you’ve always wanted to take.” He turned his back towards her as he spoke and loaded the last box into his overstuffed Sonata. He had to hold the box upright until the door was closed shut so that it didn’t fall out. He smiled at the small victory of fitting everything into such a tight space.
“Ha!” his mother snorted. Sunggyu whipped his head to look at her and pouted. “You’ve got too much of your father in you. You’ll never retire,” she continued. “He overworked himself too and now look at him.” He was six feet under, dead from a heart attack.
“Mom,” Sunggyu spoke with a slight whine. He was sick of hearing this. “He had a pre-existing heart condition.”
“Which got worse because he never relaxed,” she immediately retorted. Sunggyu drug a hand down his face. Why did he even bother? No man ever wins against his own mother.
“Jus promise me one thing,” his mother begged. She was in front of him again with both of her hands on his cheeks, caressing them under the pads of her thumb.
“What?” Sunggyu muttered through pursed lips as his mother continued to play with his cheeks. “If it’s about school or work, I don’t wanna—“
“Be happy,” her words cut him off. “If you’re happy studying or working, then I’ll be happy for you. If you’re happy with him, then I’m ecstatic. But right now…” she halted to let out a deep sigh and smile sadly. “But now you don’t seem happy.”
Sunggyu glanced back at his Home behind him, that he’ll have to leave behind forever in a few short minutes. “That’s because I’m losing my Home today,” he replied.
“You can always visit me at your sister’s,” his mother offered as if it were some consolation. It was true. He’d always have a place to stay at in Jeonju, but…
“It’s not the same.”
That weekend had brought a flurry of changes. For one, he was Home-less. Yes, he had a place to live in Seoul, but he always considered Seoul to be the place where he worked and studied, never the place where he lived. He prided himself on being a man from Jeonju, but could he even say that anymore now? He would anyways regardless. Sunggyu couldn’t deal with that many changes at once, which is how he got stuck in his current predicament.
“Hyung, do you need any help finding a new roommate? I know that I said I’d help with the rent until you found a new one, but I don’t want to be sending my first kid off to school and still paying rent on that shitty apartment,” Howon partially threatened. Sunggyu had just handed over the groom an envelope full of money, and Howon was bringing up financial issues. And Sunggyu was the one who drove all the way from Seoul to Busan to attend Howon’s wedding.
“It’s not shitty,” was all Sunggyu could think of to respond back. They had lived there together happily for two years. They were both medical students, and their schedules and habits aligned perfectly. Howon had been the ideal roommate, which made finding a replacement all the more difficult. The groom had set the bar high and had to ruin everything by finding the love of his life and marrying her. Sunggyu found it incredibly rude (and incredibly fortunate for Howon).
The groom patted his friend on the shoulder. “I know,” he assured him. “Just find one okay? Or I’ll post an ad on an internet forum and you’ll end up with a complete weirdo.”
“Alright, I’ll find one,” Sunggyu snapped back. “Congratulations on your wedding. Now I’m going to suck the open bar dry.” Which he then tried to do to the best of his abilities, but failed miserably. He gave up after only having two drinks and retired to his hotel room, feeling sleepy. Once showered and in bed, he tried giving his boyfriend a call to wish him goodnight, but he ended up saying his wishes to the voice mail and hanging up with a heavy heart.
And so he ended the shitty weekend with a shitty three-hour drive back to Seoul to his shitty apartment, which seemed even shittier after Sunggyu placed his boxes from Home in it. He just sighed, falling into bed and clutching his old stuffed dog to his chest. Maybe tomorrow all of this shit would smell like roses.
Desperation drives people to do the unthinkable, and for Sunggyu, the unthinkable was this. It was one (teensy) step up from Howon finding a complete stranger and weirdo off of the internet to live with Sunggyu. Sunggyu posted a notice for his apartment on one of the University’s message boards, littered about campus. Yes, Sunggyu was even considering living with an undergraduate. But they should both be students and at least have their studies in common. Sunggyu just hoped to find someone who’d respect his privacy and keep quiet.
“Please,” Sunggyu prayed under his breath to any deity that could be hearing. He put one last staple into his notice on the message board. “Please just a normal, human being.” He finished his prayer and posting the sign. He took a step back and sighed, slightly disappointed in himself that things had come to this.
And just as he turned his back…
“Looking for an apartment?” someone read his notice aloud. “YES!” the man exclaimed happily. “Where? Where? Where?” he mumbled under his breath.
Sunggyu whipped his head around, surprised that he already had a fish biting on his line. The man reading his notice, well, he looked normal enough, save for the bright purple hair, but what young man in this day and age of idols had normal hair. Even Kim Sunggyu had dyed his black hair a safe shade of brown. This kid was more of a risk taker. The hair should have been the first red flag for Sunggyu, warning him that this was a bad idea. But he ignored it.
“Are you interested?” Sunggyu asked, returning to his notice and stepping closer to the man.
“Eung,” the other grunted cheerfully with a grin plastered across his face. He then stabbed the paper with his thumb, pointing at a string of numbers typed across the bottom of the page. “What’s this? The coordinates?”
Sunggyu forced out a laugh. This man had a strange sense of humor. “My phone number,” he mumbled under his breath. That was the second red flag.
“Phone number?” the man repeated slowly. Then he slapped his head. “Aish! I’m being silly. Sorry, my brain is a bit slow. I didn’t get a lot of sleep last night,” he ended with a yawn that looked slightly forced (him watching Sunggyu’s reaction to it didn’t make it anymore convincing), but Sunggyu bought it anyways.
“It happens to the best of us,” Sunggyu spoke. He didn’t know exactly how to proceed from here, and so he decided just to leave. “So you have my number. Call me if you’re interested.” He then gave a short bow and turned to leave.
Sunggyu didn’t make it very far down the sidewalk when his phone began to ring. He checked the caller ID and saw that it was coming from an unknown phone number. “No way,” Sunggyu muttered under his breath. He looked behind him only to see the man with a phone to his ear and gesturing over to Sunggyu to pick his own phone up. Sunggyu scoffed and answered, “I take it that you want the room.”
“It depends,” Sunggyu could hear the man shouting at him from down the sidewalk and in the earpiece. He winced and pulled the phone away from his ear. “When can I move in?”
Sunggyu shrugged. “You could probably move in today if you want.”
“Okay. Call!” The third red flag, and perhaps the fourth and the fifth, a whole sea of red flags waving at him, telling Sunggyu to stay far, far away.
Maybe it was the desperation that made Sunggyu ignore all those warnings, or perhaps he saw them and didn’t care, or maybe it was the captivating way that the man smiled, lulling Sunggyu into a false sense of security. He had Sunggyu, hook, line, and sinker. “Okay, call,” Sunggyu repeated into the phone. He then hung up and shouted to the other, “Yah! Do you want to come with me to see it?”
“Yes!” the other exclaimed and jogged up to meet his new roommate.
Once the other reached him, Sunggyu clicked his tongue. “You should at least see an apartment before you agree to move in.”
“Should I?” the man asked.
Sunggyu nodded. “Of course!” he exclaimed, and the other nodded along. “I didn’t even tell you how much rent was. And for all you know, I could be a complete weirdo.”
“You don’t seem like one,” the other immediately spat back. “Besides,” he began and smiled sheepishly. “I’m desperate.”
Sunggyu sighed. “So am I.”
Sunggyu’s new roommate was named Nam Woohyun. He moved in that very day with nothing more than a few bags to his name. Sunggyu could relate. It was like the spitting image of himself when he first came up from Jeonju, with only a few bags in his hands but a heart full of dreams. Woohyun appeared to be the same. He was a film major at the University…or at least Sunggyu suspected that Woohyun was a film major. The boy spent most of his days pent up inside of the apartment watching dramas and movies, taking detailed notes. It was obvious that he was not just watching them, but he was studying them, carefully. Woohyun appeared to be a serious college student, dressed not for fashion but for comfort, eating instant food because cooking real food would tear him away from his studying. Once again, Sunggyu could relate. It was surprising that Sunggyu had made any friends during his undergrad, let alone make a very special friend. His priority at that time had been studying. The second was living like a human being.
And perhaps all of the similarities were the reason why Sunggyu had been so lenient to Woohyun in the beginning, why he forgave Woohyun’s…strangeness. But after a while, the instances began piling up and grew into a pile so large that Sunggyu could no longer ignore it.
Nam Woohyun was a complete weirdo…maybe even a psychopath.
And it all began with a small stuffed dog, the one Sunggyu had brought from his old Home. He had come back from a long night at the library, made a bee-line for his bed, and flopped right down on it. He then pulled the dog to his chest about to hug it, but then he noticed something strange. Its eyes were missing.
Sunggyu bolted upwards. “Nurungie! What happened?” he lamented, looking closely at the frayed, cut threads that used to hold the button eyes. “Who did this to you?”
As if on cue, an exploding sound came from the living room. Nam Woohyun was watching American action movies again. Sunggyu sighed, rolling off the bed with Nurungie still in his hands. He then dragged his feet to his door and yelled from the doorway into the living room, “Yah! Woohyun-ah, turn it down! Hyung’s trying to sleep!” As if his seniority ever made a difference in their relationship thus far. Woohyun had only ever called him…
“Oh, Gyu! Sorry,” Woohyun shouted right back, turning down the volume. He used no honorific. Hell, he didn’t even call Sunggyu by his entire name. But it was always ‘Gyu,’ as if they were long-time friends and not roommates for barely a month. Kids these days. They believed in equality and breaking ‘archaic’ traditions, whenever it suited them. But the time will come when they’d invoke their own seniority to get their way, and sing the praises of doing everything the traditional way. After all, traditions are what make a Korean a Korean. But Sunggyu was starting to think that Woohyun was from abroad. He had to be from some place very far away, like America, because he didn’t seem Korean at all in spite of his looks.
“Just keep it down,” Sunggyu warned the other raising his hand with Nurungie in it. He waved without a care. “Good night.”
Sunggyu looked blankly at Woohyun, who was baring his teeth and at the stuffed toy in his hands and back to his roommate again. “Did you just growl?” Sunggyu couldn’t believe the question that he was asking.
“I don’t like the way that dog looks at me…never blinking,” Woohyun grumbled turning his attention back to the movie and his note-taking. He smirked. “But I guess he can’t see anymore.”
“D-did you b-blind my Nurungie?” Sunggyu didn’t mean to stammer so much, but he was so unsure of himself that the words stumbled from his lips. There was no way that man possibly could have.
“Gyu, do you think I would?” Woohyun turned the question around. He looked at Sunggyu with wide and innocent eyes.
No…maybe? Sunggyu shook his head. He was too tired to deal with all of this. He wagered that his roommate was tired too, judging by all that growling. “Go to bed, Woohyun-ah. You’re not making any sense.”
Nam Woohyun never made sense, though. And it only got worse as the days progressed. One day Sunggyu was walking back from a lecture and going to pick up his usual caffeine fix, but then he saw it. The bouncing purple hair, shining brightly under the sunlight. It was strange. Sunggyu was starting to think that Woohyun was nocturnal or a hermit because this was the first time Sunggyu had seen Woohyun step outside the apartment since their first meeting. He thought his eyes were playing tricks on him. Sunggyu forgot all about the coffee and followed the purple light. When he caught it, he was sure that his eyes were playing tricks on him.
It was his Nam Woohyun, with his long purple hair flopping around as he jumped and jumped…to catch the bubbles floating out of the bubble machine in front of a toy store…with his mouth. Sunggyu watched for a bit in amazement. Surely, Woohyun wasn’t trying to eat the bubbles. Maybe he was just acting cute to catch the attention of the clerk who worked at the toy store. Yes, that must be it. Guys do crazy things to catch girls’ attention. If he was trying to eat the bubbles, well, that was just plain crazy.
Then Woohyun finally caught one in his mouth. “Ugh gross!” he immediately retched and spat several times onto the ground, trying to rid the taste from his mouth.
“What do you expect?” Sunggyu chided him, finally speaking out loud. Woohyun turned to look at him, wiping the spit from his lips. “It’s just soap.”
“Eung,” Sunggyu assented. “Yah, what are you doing?”
“Feeling regretful,” Woohyun answered honestly. “Ugh, how can something so pretty taste so bad?”
“Even roses have thorns. Not everything that’s pretty is good, you know that,” Sunggyu tried to remind him.
Woohyun nodded along, and Sunggyu felt slightly relieved. Woohyun still appeared to be insane. “Right because you’re ugly, but you’re still good.”
“Yah!” Sunggyu yelled, stepping closer to the other with his fist raised threateningly. Woohyun grinned as he stepped backwards and ran into the pole behind him, somehow managing to knock it over, which caused the entire awning of the store to collapse unto the ground, bringing down the bubble machine along with it.
And that’s when Sunggyu first learned that Woohyun had a knack for destroying things.
After that, Sunggyu noticed that things around the apartment were inexplicably broken. Pots were missing handles. Several DVDs were jammed into the player. Some of his favorite CDs were scratched and rendered unplayable. Light bulbs were randomly broken inside of their lamps. Doors and cupboard doors were off their hinges. There was even a hole through the tv one day.
Sunggyu didn’t even know whether to mind them or not. Later everything would be fixed. A new bulb would be put into the lamps. Doors would be back on their hinges. Handles were punched back onto the pots (literally punched through the pots, which didn’t seem possible). And those things that couldn’t be fixed were brand new. Their tv now had a bigger screen, and how could Sunggyu be upset with that.
But some things were never fixed, like Nurungie. And some things couldn’t be replaced, like Sunggyu’s time or reputation.
For a solid week, Sunggyu could not find any of his left shoes. He still had all of his right ones, lined up neatly by the door. “Nam Woohyun,” he grumbled as he pulled on two mismatched, right shoes onto his feet. Yes, he was fully aware that his roommate was to blame for all of this, but he had already lost too much time looking for his missing shoes. He had no time left to chew his roommate out. And so he had run out of his apartment and run off to classes, leaving him with an incredibly sore left foot by the end of the week. Woohyun must’ve finally felt pity for Sunggyu, constantly rubbing his foot and applying bandages on it because the next Monday, all of his left shoes reappeared again…but now all the right ones were gone.
And it was with two right shoes on his feet, when he walked into a situation that he desperately wanted to walk right back out of. Running in Nam Woohyun outside of the apartment was never a good thing. The first time, his roommate ruined the storefront of the toy store. The second time, well, Sunggyu had witnessed Woohyun accidentally walking into a car, leaving a large dent in the side, and casually walking away. Sunggyu had considered reporting it as a hit and run, but considering that it was more of a hit and walk away and the fact that the car was parked in a loading zone anyways, Sunggyu let it go. This time was different from the others. He wasn’t alone. He was with a group of people, people who Sunggyu liked to call “no good ruffians that would make their mothers’ cry.” However Woohyun was loudly greeting them as “friends,” which made Sunggyu’s stomach drop. If these kids were actually Woohyun’s friends, then they may come over to the apartment. And if they came over to the apartment, there probably would be a party. And not a nice, sophisticated grown-up party with wine and casual conversation, but a party with booze, loud music, destruction of his property, and…”Drugs,” Sunggyu muttered out loud. Sunggyu was 65% sure that these ‘friends’ were drug dealers. He had to get Woohyun out of there.
“Uh, uh,” Woohyun grunted along with the beat that his ‘friend’ was laying down. Ah shit, Sunggyu thought and winced as he approached the group. He’s going to rap.
“NWH, chyea. N for the ‘Nam.’ W for the ‘Woo.’ H for the ‘Hyun.’ Chyea! NWH!” Woohyun spat out those lines. And now Sunggyu wasn’t quite sure if he wanted to save his roommate any more. The thugs could have him. He didn’t want people to know that he knew the guy who just killed hip-hop.
But the thugs didn’t even lay a hand on him. They all laughed as they were watching Woohyun trying to breakdance, do a handstand, fall over, and get back up in a spin as if he had meant to almost fall flat on his face the entire time. However the laughter didn’t last for long, one of the stockier kids walked up to Woohyun and grabbed him by the collar. He then drew his fist back, aiming for Woohyun’s face.
The punch missed Woohyun by miles. It was always going to be fake punch, but Woohyun was still there, pretending to be hurt with all of his teeth punched out. The throng started to laugh at the peculiar man again. Sunggyu closed his eyes and sighed. Now he was really going to act like he didn’t know Woohyun.
But Sunggyu’s yell earlier already revealed that he did. “Oh Gyu!” Woohyun exclaimed, still pretending to not have teeth. He waved furiously at the med student. He then smiled, showing all of his teeth. “I want you to meet my new friends.”
This time, Sunggyu was the one to grab Woohyun by the collar. He dragged him away from the other men. “They aren’t your friends,” he grumbled under his breath.
Woohyun twisted himself out of the other’s grip. He step then fell in with his. “Hm? They said they were,” he has slightly confused. Then he suddenly turned around and waved to the so-called thugs. “Bye guys! My roommate, Kim Sunggyu…” the med student cringed at the other revealing his full name. “…wants to hang out. So I’ll meet up with you guys tomorrow!”
Sunggyu grabbed him by the collar again and spun Woohyun back around. “No, you won’t,” he growled.
“Because…” Sunggyu quickly glanced back to the gangsters, making sure that they were out of ear-shot, before he continued. “They aren’t good guys.”
“Really?” Woohyun cocked his head. He then stopped in the middle of the street and dug through the pocket of his tracksuit. “But they gave me this,” he said, pulling out a Ziploc baggie filled generously with a white powder. “And they said it was really good. And that it was pure or something.”
“Y-yah!” Sunggyu stammered and lunged forward. He arrested the baggie from the other and hid in underneath his coat. He could feel the plastic bag press against his chest, where his heart was beating wildly. “D-do y-you,” Sunggyu still stuttered over his words. He was breathing heavily and getting closer and closer to Woohyun as his voice dropped lower. “Do you even know what this is?”
“No,” Woohyun gave him the answer that he was hoping for. “But for what I had to pay, it better be good. What are you supposed to do with…”
“YOU BOUGHT THIS!” Sunggyu accidentally yelled out loud. He groaned, closing his eyes tight. He hoped this was all a dream, a terrible nightmare. It felt like one. He was sweating, his heart was racing faster and faster, and all he wanted to do was wake up. He opened his eyes only to see his roommate with an uneasy smile on his face. He almost looked apologetic. At least Woohyun was slowly realizing that they were in deep shit.
“You really don’t know, do you?” Sunggyu asked softly.
Woohyun’s face suddenly hardened. The ends of his hair seemed to have stiffened. “Don’t know what?” he combatted.
“Who are you?”
“FREEZE! HANDS IN THE AIR AND PUT THE COCAINE ON THE GROUND!”
Sunggyu gulped and did immediately as he was told. He slowly turned around to see a bevy of cops, some of them restraining Woohyun’s ‘friends’ in handcuffs. Kim Sunggyu just found himself smack dab in the middle of a drug bust. And worst of all, his eyes glanced up to the watch on his wrist. He winced. He had an exam in 30 minutes, and he hardly reckoned that he could bust out of jail in that short amount of time. He was f***ed.
“Oh cool guns! Can I see one?”
“Not now,” Sunggyu barked back at Woohyun and nudged his roommate with his foot until his hands were back up in the air. Roommate? Maybe not any longer. They were going to be cellmates now.
Or fortunately not for Sunggyu. Woohyun had told the cops some cockamamie story about being from the countryside and unfamiliar with the strange new world that was the metropolis of Seoul. And that the only drugs that he knew of were the Advils his grandfather would take to ease his arthritis. A part of Sunggyu wanted to believe that these were lies that Woohyun had taken from dramas. But there was often a look in Woohyun’s eyes, some kind of wonderment, like he was seeing things for the first time and it rocked his world. A small “wow” would fall from his lips. He was even astounded by the handcuffs on his wrists, not like it was just a novelty but a interesting invention in itself. He was studying them closely, with watchful eyes (as Sunggyu was studying him). All of the was enough to convince the cops that Woohyun was telling the truth, but not for Sunggyu.
While some things did seem to fall more into place, like Woohyun’s aversion of going out into apartment unless necessary, his ‘comfort’ clothes, and unfamiliarity with the world around him (Sunggyu even had to tell him how to work their shower). Not everything coincided with Woohyun’s story. Almost from the very beginning, Sunggyu had suspected that his roommate wasn’t Korean. It wasn’t just the honorifics. Woohyun couldn’t eat kimchi. He claimed that it was too spicy. He once asked Sunggyu if there really were two Koreas and why they were split. Woohyun couldn’t even name a single member of SNSD, and even Sunggyu’s own mother knew the names of all of them.
Woohyun was American…or Canadian…or born from the far reaches of Antarctica. Only that would explain his behavior.
“Maybe he’s an alien.”
Sunggyu almost spat out his soup. “Myungsoo-yah,” he chided with a giggle, wiping his mouth. “You’re going to be a lawyer. You can’t be illogical.”
“But…” Howon challenged, raising an eyebrow. Sunggyu scoffed. He wondered why Myungsoo was in law school and not Howon, who really loved to argue more. “He’ll have to spit out garbage sometimes. Not all of Myungsoo’s clients will be innocent.”
“No, it’s not illogical to begin with,” Myungsoo insisted. “We live in an ever-expanding universe with infinite possibilities. And you’re telling me that there’s not something else living out there?” After he finished, he grinned smugly and swallowed a spoon full of rice. For a man who was mostly quiet and somewhat spacy, Myungsoo could sure become eloquent whenever he became passionate about something. And mostly he was passionate about proving Sunggyu wrong, and aliens apparently.
“I didn’t say that,” Sunggyu barked back. Why did their lunches always end up like this? In silly debates? (probably because secretly the three of them thought it was fun) “I just don’t think that my roommate is one.”
“Let’s look at the facts,” Myungsoo proposed, shifting in his seat and propping his elbows onto the table. A wide grin crept onto Howon’s face. Myungsoo was going into lawyer mode. “You’re roommate obviously isn’t a Seoul citizen, and from what you told me, I concur that he’s not a citizen of Korea either. But the question now is where is he a citizen?” he proposed the question as if it were profound.
“Canada,” Sunggyu proposed as he rolled his food around in his mouth (there was nothing against eating an arguing at the same time).
“But Brian isn’t like that,” Howon interjected, referring to their fellow med student, who was from Toronto and other than slipping over a few words and his English name, there was nothing else to indicate that he was a foreigner.
“Then he was raised by bears, I don’t know,” Sunggyu groaned. This argument was getting less and less fun as it progressed (although being raised by bears would explain Woohyun’s disposition towards destruction).
Myungsoo smirked. “Now that just sounds silly.”
“And aliens doesn’t?” Sunggyu raised.
Myungsoo shrugged and leaned back into his chair, thereby leaving the debate as it was. He chuckled to himself. “Instead of My Love from Another Star, it’s My Roommate from Another Star,” he revealed his source of his laughter.
“At least Do Manager had some useful powers. All Nam Woohyun can do is act clueless and make Sunggyu fall in the standings,” Howon, however, kept debating. Sunggyu groaned after being reminded of his missed exam. He was allowed to make it up, but at the cost of his number one standing amongst the med students, and in the hearts of their teachers. Not to mention that Sunggyu had his very own file lodged in the local police department now. Howon then let out a short chuckle. “But I guess that was useful for me because I’m number one now,” he bragged holding up one finger in the air. He immediately put it down after noticing that Sunggyu was glaring at him. “Sorry.”
“Whatever,” Sunggyu dismissed, putting down his spoon and patting his full belly. This meal was over and so was the discussion. “I got to go home and see what new mess Woohyun made.”
“Hyung,” Myungsoo called out to Sunggyu as the three of them were getting ready to leave. “Why haven’t you kicked him out yet? You can. Your name is the only one on the lease.”
Sunggyu sighed. He had asked himself the say question every day, often multiple times in one day. But he always came to the same conclusion: “Because I don’t think he has anywhere else to go.”
On his way back home from lunch, Sunggyu began to wonder what his life would be like without Nam Woohyun. He’d still be the top student in his program. Nurungie would still have its eyes. He’d have no record at the police station. He’d have peace. Sunggyu didn’t realize that fact until he noticed his heartbeating faster with every step he took closer to home. He hadn’t felt at peace since Woohyun arrived.
“Is there someone up there? Oh my god! There is!”
“Someone call the police! He’s going to jump!”
Sunggyu looked up to see a crowd slowly forming in front of his building. They were all staring up at the rooftop, and Sunggyu’s eyes followed theirs. Nam Woohyun must’ve also been thinking of what the world would be like without him because there he was, standing at the ledge of the building, toes hanging over the edge. Sunggyu broke out into a sprint until he reached the crowd. He then pushed his way to the front.
“Yah! Nam Woohyun!” Sunggyu yelled up to him. But it didn’t look like the other could hear him. “NAM! WOO! HYUN!” he shouted at the top of his lungs, feeling his voice rip through his throat.
He heard it. Woohyun heard him shouting. He looked right at Sunggyu and waved. He smiled, and he waved. Woohyun then lowered his hands to fiddle with an odd apparatus around his waist. Sunggyu sighed after realizing what it was, a parachute, a homemade one by the looks of it. His roommate wasn’t trying to commit suicide. He was f***ing base jumping, which is still an awful idea in itself and Sunggyu still had to stop it at all costs.
But he was already too late. With a running start, Woohyun leapt off the building, screaming the name of the ancient city as he did so. Lord knows why. Sunggyu wasn’t even going to try to begin to figure out how his roommate’s mind worked. But all Sunggyu could do now was watch Woohyun glide through the air, his purple hair whipping in the wind. Woohyun did manage to deploy his parachute, but as ‘parachute’ flew open, Sunggyu noticed the familiar pattern on it. The ‘parachute’ was made out his flannel bed sheets and wholly unsuitable for extreme sports. Unable to withstand the tension, the sheets ripped, and Woohyun began to fall. He hit the ground.
The crowd began to swarm around him, but luckily Sunggyu was still at the front of it. He rushed to Woohyun’s side and began to assess the situation. His roommate was laying there, lifeless. Sunggyu hated himself for thinking, Well, I guess that solves my problem. Especially after seeing Woohyun’s leg twitch. That’s when Sunggyu noticed a peculiar absence of blood, and Woohyun’s body wasn’t a crumpled heap. No, it was still very much Woohyun-like. As was the laugh that cut through the silence.
Woohyun rolled over onto his back, groaning. Sunggyu knelt down by his side. “Hey? You alive?” it was a silly question. The answer was right in front of him, no matter how unbelievable it was.
“Yea, I think so,” Woohyun responded in a strained voice. He shifted on the ground.
Sunggyu looked the other up and down. Nothing, nothing appeared to be broken or lacerated. The only thing that looked rumpled was Woohyun’s hair and tracksuit.
Woohyun only laughed as his answer, his eyes full of regret (and Sunggyu accepted it as one).
Much to everyone’s surprise (and with a little support from Sunggyu), Woohyun managed to get back onto his feet only minutes after he fell flat on his face from a few stories. And now, Sunggyu had laid him down on their couch and was bringing him painkillers (because something in Woohyun had to be hurting, even if it didn’t look like it). He carefully watched his roommate swallow the pills.
“Why would you do something so stupid? You’re smarter than this. You knew that sheet couldn’t hold you,” Sunggyu began to lecture the other. In spite of everything Woohyun had done so far, and in spite of what Howon may believe, Woohyun wasn’t clueless. He was smart, smart enough to fix the things that he’d broken and even fixed things that Sunggyu himself had broken, like when his computer caught a virus, Woohyun eradicated it within minutes, like it was nothing. Woohyun wasn’t dumb, but why did he do such dumb things?
“Because it was a bad idea,” Woohyun answered. Sunggyu looked up at him, confused. “Because it was a bad idea, I had to do it,” Woohyun repeated.
A bad idea? It sounded like something was awry with Woohyun’s decision-making process. And to an aspiring doctor, there was normally one answer for that. He thought back to the few milliseconds before Woohyun hit the ground. He never braced for the landing. If he had, his wrists, knees, ankles, or more might’ve shattered. “Are you drunk?” Sunggyu asked. From what he’d learned, drunks could survive such falls and even car crashes because they don’t fight against the impact.
“No,” Woohyun answered with a shake of his head.
“Are you really just that dumb?” Sunggyu spat out, feeling slightly irritated that he couldn’t understand a single thing. Woohyun nodded enthusiastically to the question. Sunggyu sputtered into a laugh and hit Woohyun gently at his knee. “Get up! Come on. Let’s go.”
Woohyun sat up on the couch. “Where?”
“You ruined my sheets. So you’re buying me new ones.”
It didn’t really dawn on Sunggyu until he walked out of the apartment building with Woohyun at his side. He had run into Woohyun several times outside, but this was the first time that they went out together. Sunggyu side eyed his roommate. This didn’t mean that they were friends, right? They were just running errands. Woohyun caught Sunggyu’s gaze and gave him a smile. Reflexively, Sunggyu returned it; however his smile was more nervous and apprehensive. It was more of a show of teeth than anything. He then looked away, eyes locked on the street. Sunggyu needed to be more careful or else Woohyun might actually start liking him. And if that happened, Woohyun might never move out.
Eventually, they made it to the department store, and judging by Woohyun’s “wows,” this must’ve been his first time in one, or at least in one so large. Sunggyu had to start pushing him towards the bedding section. “Come one,” Sunggyu grumbled. “Let’s get them and get out.”
“But Gyu, there’s so much stuff,” Woohyun argued. And instead of Sunggyu’s push nudging him in the right direction, it launched Woohyun off like a rocket. Sunggyu groaned. His friends ‘thought’ that Woohyun was an extra-terrestrial, but he was ‘extra’ alright. He was more like an extra-hyperactive child, and Sunggyu all of the sudden wished that they made leashes for adults.
After chasing him around in a few sections, Sunggyu finally caught up with his roommates as he was trying on hats. He wasn’t even trying on the snapbacks more appropriate for his age, but the old man bucket-style hats that swallowed his small head whole.
“Gyu! Look! It covers my ears!” he exclaimed as he fiddled with the brim.
Sunggyu tore it right off his head. “Stop trying on hats or you’ll get lice,” he warned. And you’ll die from fashion suicide if you wear this one…but it kinda did match his track suit. Sunggyu shook his head and placed the hat back on the rack.
“Yea and your head will get all itchy and then they’ll be all over the apartment. Nasty little bugs,” Sunggyu grumbled as he walked towards the bedding section. Surprisingly Woohyun was following him.
“Oh,” Woohyun muttered. Sunggyu glanced back at him, and his roommate had his head bowed, looking low, even his hair looked less fluffy. Sunggyu cocked his head, wondering what in particular he had said to make Woohyun feel that way. But, of course, Woohyun was like a tempest, unpredictable and ever-changing. He raised his gaze and saw the display beds lining the section. “Beds!” he exclaimed, and then he broke out into a sprint, jumped, and landed in one of the beds.
Sunggyu slowly approached the bed as Woohyun was rolling around in it. “Yah, get out,” he commanded, tapping Woohyun on the shoulder. “You’re not supposed to…”
Woohyun rolled over onto his side, staring straight at the other, and cut him off, “How do you know if it’s any good if you don’t try it out?”
“I was just going to…” Sunggyu paused. Well, he was going to buy the cheapest sheets in the store. But then he remembered that he wasn’t the one actually paying for the sheets, and that Woohyun was a pretty generous spender. A large smile spread across his face. He deserved nice, luxurious sheets after all that his roommate put him through. And so at the end of a stressful day of school and oddness, Sunggyu could at least get a comfortable night’s sleep. “Yea let’s test it out!” he agreed, pushing Woohyun over so that he could lay down too.
Although they had gotten several reprimanding stares from unlookers and employees, the two roommates still tried out several displays and rubbed several sheets against their faces, testing for softness. It was far more fun than Sunggyu thought that you could ever have while shopping for bed sheets, and definitely more fun than he thought that he’d ever have with Woohyun. They actually got along. Sure, they lived together, but it was more like two beings just being in the same place at the same time. It wasn’t making jokes with each other, or talking about preferences, actually getting to know each other. Not like they were doing now. The more time he’d spent with Woohyun, the more ‘not bad’ his roommate seemed.
After picking out an expensive 1000 thread count sheets, they headed to the cash register. Woohyun pulled out his wallet and proceeded to pay the full amount in cash and even had several bills left over in his wallet.
“Wah!” Sunggyu gasped after walking away from the register. “Do you always walk around with that much cash in your wallet?”
“Don’t you?” Woohyun asked in all serious as he stuffed the wallet back into his pocket.
Sunggyu shook his head. “I don’t think that I have that much in my bank account.”
“Really?” Woohyun looked concerned as he felt the fat wallet through the pocket in his pants. He then glanced up at the other. “You want some?”
Sunggyu stopped in his tracks and stared at the man in disbelief. “Are you a chaebol’s son or grandson or something?” he asked.
Woohyun cocked his head. “Chaebol?” He then shook his head and chuckled, “No. I don’t even have a dad. Not really.”
“Oh,” Sunggyu muttered and the two continued to walk out of the store. Just like he’d thought, Woohyun had lied about his background at the police station. However, being right didn’t give Sunggyu the satisfaction that it normally did. It only affirmed the other thought he had before: Woohyun truly had nowhere else to go. Pity started to rise in him, twisting his gut. No, no. He had to stay strong. He then sniffed and looked over at Woohyun, extending out his palm. “I’ll take some.”
As long as Woohyun was offering, he might as well take advantage of it.
The next morning, the pity came again. It was stronger this time. Sunggyu walked out into the living room. Maybe if he caught Woohyun wrecking some of his things or hiding his shoes again, the pity would go away. But Woohyun wasn’t there. Sunggyu pouted. Woohyun was always up around this time watching dramas or movies, taking his meticulous notes. Then a dark thought pricked the back of Sunggyu’s mind. Last night. What if Woohyun was finally starting to feel the after effects from the fall, whiplash, tender bruises, all of that. The pity grew and drove Sunggyu to knock on his roommate’s door. “Woohyun?” he called out softly as he knocked. But there was no answer. “Woohyun are you in there? Are you awake?” he asked, a little more loudly this time. He was still met with silence. Sunggyu’s frown deepened. Woohyun was always home. He had to be in there, but why wasn’t he answering?
Sunggyu twisted the handle. The door was unlocked. “Woohyun-ah?” Sunggyu called out for the other as he stepped inside the bedroom. “Hm?” he gasped as he surveyed the room. Woohyun wasn’t in his bed, or at his desk. He wasn’t anywhere. But what was there was…strange. Sunggyu had never been in the other’s room before, and he thought that Woohyun wouldn’t have much because he only came into the apartment with a few bags. But the room was chockfull of knick-knacks and devices. Strange things that Woohyun must’ve gathered because they interested him, like the bubble-machine was perched high in the corner of his room. Also there were the things that Woohyun had broken, but was hoarding in his room, like kid trying to hide away his mistakes. His desk wasn’t covered in books, movies, or notebooks, like Sunggyu would’ve expected from a film major, but there was this large device. The top corner of it had been melted and destroyed. Tools were littered about it, as if Woohyun was in the middle of repairing it. Just as Sunggyu was stepping closer to the desk to get a better look, he hears a rustle behind him.
“Huh?” Sunggyu turned around to see Woohyun crawling out from underneath his bed, hair in disarray, rubbing his drooping eyes.
Sunggyu forgot all about the device and walked up to his roommate, crouching down next to him. “Hey what are you doing under there? You’re supposed to sleep on the bed,” he joked quietly.
“It’s too bright,” Woohyun grumbled, leaving his hands over his eyes.
“Hm?” Sunggyu looked about the room. It was bright. Woohyun had a large window in his room and the sun was shining directly on his bed, with nothing to block it. “That’s because you have no curtains,” he reasoned.
“Curtains?” Woohyun repeated. He lowered his hands. His pupils were so large that his whole eye was almost entirely black. Woohyun blinked hard, several times until they shrunk back down to its normal size. He looked over at the window and mumbled, “Oh right.”
“How are you feeling?” Sunggyu asked as he watched the other carefully for any signs of distress.
“Fine,” Woohyun responded. Then his hand flew up to his hair, and he began scratching furiously. “Except my head has been itching like crazy.” His other hand soon joined his other in scratching.
“Itching?” Sunggyu repeated. That wasn’t a symptom that he was familiar with from a traumatic fall. What would cause so much itching?
“Aw shit! Woohyun-ah!”
Woohyun had lice. Which meant that their apartment had lice, and if Sunggyu wasn’t careful, he could contract it too. He sat Woohyun in the middle of the living room floor, with a surgical cap on his head. Sunggyu went around, gathering everything Woohyun had touched in a garbage bag. After that was done, he went to the store to buy some medicated shampoo. He was delightfully surprised to see that Woohyun stayed in the same spot were he’d left him almost an hour ago. It was surprising to see his roommate show any kind of restraint. Sunggyu felt…almost proud.
Unfortunately, Sunggyu’s job wasn’t done after that. Now, it was the worst, most disgusting part. Sunggyu grimaced as he sat behind Woohyun, who was still on the floor. He had rubber gloves that went up to his elbows, but he felt no more protected. Carefully with a comb and a pair of tweezers, he was picking the dead lice from Woohyun’s hair, one by one.
“This is disgusting!” he retched, plucking off an other dead lice and placing it in a bag. The head in front of him began to shake as Woohyun chuckled. “What?”
“You want to be a doctor. You’ll see worse,” Woohyun reminded him.
True, he had a point, especially since Sunggyu wanted to be a surgeon. He had deft enough hands to treat even the most delicate of organs. He was even taking out the lice with rapidity. But still…“But…bugs,” he lamely argued. He plucked out another from behind Woohyun’s ear. “Ew!” After placing that one in the bag, Sunggyu returned to searching the area around Woohyun’s ear. With his tweezers, he kept trying to move aside this patch of hair by his ear, but it wouldn’t budge. It took him a few seconds and a few more pokes to realize that the hair was attached to the back of Woohyun’s ear, like a coat of fur. He hadn’t noticed it before because Woohyun’s long, purple hair covered the backs of his ears (and the fur was surprisingly purple as well). Sunggyu knew that people grew fur-like patches due to medical reasons, like hypertrichosis or downy hair growth from being underweight. Sunggyu bit his lip in thought, pondering over which of the two his roommate may have that would’ve caused this. His finger stretched forward as he touched the fur. Although it he was still wearing gloves, it seemed soft. He stroked it again. Woohyun’s head instinctively leaned into the touch. But he almost immediately leaned away and turned his head around to face Sunggyu. The med student raised both hands in the air as if he was just caught with his hand in a cookie jar.
“Are you almost done?” Woohyun asked, ignoring what the other had just done.
Sunggyu grabbed the other’s head and twisted it back around. “Just a little bit more,” he promised. All he had to do was give the head one last look to make sure it was lice-free.
Woohyun tilted his head back and grinned up at the other, who was still searching through his hair. “This is why I like you, Gyu,” he blurted out.
“W-what?” Sunggyu stuttered as he dropped his hands. Wasn’t this what he was afraid of? Woohyun getting attached to him?
“You help me,” Woohyun explained as he lowered his head back down. “You tell me what things are.”
“I do?” Sunggyu asked. He began pulling off the gloves with a sharp snap. It was like a sharp slap, calling Sunggyu back into reality and showing him the truth behind their relationship. He had been helping Woohyun, especially in his most dire situations.
“Eung,” Woohyun grunted. “Like the shower…bubbles…drugs…last night…now.” He then hung his head low, resting his chin on his knees. “I know that I’m not the easiest roommate...”
“You’re not bad,” Sunggyu cut him off. He didn’t like seeing Woohyun being hard on himself, even if it was warranted.
“HUH?!” Woohyun’s reaction was a bit more dramatic than Sunggyu had expected. The roommate whipped his whole body around and looked at the other with wide eyes.
“You’re not bad?” Sunggyu repeated lowly.
Woohyun flashed him the greatest grin that Sunggyu had ever seen from him. “Thank you,” he spoke sincerely to the other while resting his hand on Sunggyu’s knee. Sunggyu looked at the hand resting on him, not knowing exactly what to do with it. “Hey. Are you done now?” Woohyun asked excitedly, giving the knee a gentle squeeze.
“Yea. Why? Can’t sit still?” Sunggyu guessed as the other bolted straight up after the word “yea” was uttered. He laughed.
“Yes,” Woohyun answered regardless, even though his actions already spoke for him. He was already at the other side of the room, walking up to Sunggyu’s keyboard. He quickly sat down, and his fingers brushed against the keys.
“Hey! That’s mine!” Sunggyu yelled at the other. He got up from the couch and stomped over. He really didn’t like it when people used his things without his permission, especially playing around with one that cost him several paychecks (and especially being touched by Woohyun’s destructive paws). “Do you even know how to…” His angry shouts were drowned out by a flurry of notes as Woohyun played The Flight of the Bumblebee with ease, and then quickly transitioned to one of Beethoven’s pieces. “…okay, I guess you do,” he murmured and stood there in amazement as Woohyun’s fingers danced across the board.
But like everything else, a song only held Woohyun’s attention for a few seconds. After playing a few classical songs that Sunggyu could recognize, Woohyun began playing something that he didn’t. Sunggyu tilted his head, as if having his ear closer to the keyboard would suddenly give him the answer. Eventually he gave up.“What song is that?”
“You,” Woohyun answered. He played the melody just looking at the other, not even minding the keys. The song was light as soft, almost like waves coming onto the shore. “You seem calm. But then you flare up!” The sound waves began to build up and crash down like tsuenamis. Sunggyu narrowed his eyes on the other, which made Woohyun only smile even more. Sunggyu scoffed at that. The song suddenly slowed down, softening back to the serene waves. “Then…you’re calm again. You never stay angry for long. Like right now.”
Sunggyu was stunned. Since when had he been like that? “That’s because I have a soft heart,” he suggested, his voice distracted and his mind searching.
“Hm,” Woohyun hummed in thought. “I guess you do look squishy.”
“Yah!” Sunggyu yelled. The music then picked up speed, growing dark as Woohyun’s hand moved down the keyboard. Sunggyu glared at him. “Are you really?” his voice was rising. Now Woohyun was only using the lowest keys, matching the notes with Sunggyu’s angry panting. He was. Woohyun was making a soundtrack to everything that was going on. “Stop it!” Sunggyu commanded. “Stop making a soundtrack to…”
“Then the music suddenly grew lighter, loftier even though Sunggyu’s mood hadn’t changed. Woohyun was also not looking at him anymore. Something else had caught his attention. “Huh?” Sunggyu mumbled, glancing about the room, searching for Woohyun’s new inspiration.
The other pointed out the window and mumbled, “Butterfly.”
Nam Woohyun was weird. There was no denying that, but he was weird for a reason. And Sunggyu believed that he was slowly encroaching on the answer. Woohyun seemed to have a bevy of health problems. A part from the abnormal hair, Woohyun appeared to be sensitive to light and sound, to the whole world. Sunggyu guessed that he was probably susceptible to migraines. And Woohyun was smart, but socially unaware, like a savant. Because of all of these things, and maybe more (his tendency to wreck things didn’t help), Woohyun probably lived an isolated life. Even now, he was always on his own, stuck in the apartment. The only ‘friends’ Sunggyu had ever seen him with were those drug dealers. And well, Sunggyu thought that Woohyun was a little too nice and not bad to be left alone 24/7.
So Sunggyu was going to take him out, in the daytime, where everyone can see them, and he was going to introduce his roommate to his friends. Okay, so Myungsoo’s constant goading and questioning about Woohyun might’ve also prompted Sunggyu’s decision, but Sunggyu would like to think that he was doing it purely out of the kindness of his heart and not to shut Myungsoo up.
When Sunggyu walked into the living room, Woohyun wasn’t watching a drama or a movie, but a soccer match. However, he seemed to be more into it than anything. His notebook was on the ground. His eyes were following the ball intently on the screen, and he gradually leaned forward as if it got him closer to the action. And so obviously, the best way to get his attention was to stand in front of the screen.
“Move,” Woohyun commanded as soon as Sunggyu blocked his vision.
Sunggyu didn’t budge, but planted his feet in the ground and crossed his arms over his chest. “Woohyun, do you have any friends? Real ones? Ones that don’t sell you drugs?” he asked.
“No. Can you move? Please?” Woohyun was practically begging now and his head was almost on the floor, trying to peak around Sunggyu to see the screen.
“Why not?” Sunggyu still pursued the subject.
Woohyun sat up straight and huffed, after having realized that the best way to deal with Kim Sunggyu was to indulge him a little. “I like being alone. It’s safe,” he replied curtly. “Can I watch the game now?” His head began to droop lower and lower again.
“Come out with me,” Sunggyu suggested. Woohyun perked up and stared at him, confused. “I’m going out with friends. They…they want to meet you.” ‘Meet’ wasn’t exactly the proper word. It was more like ‘investigate,’ but Woohyun didn’t need to know about how curious his friends were. It would be a friendly interrogation.
Sunggyu scratched the back of his head. “Well,” he held off telling his roommate the truth for a bit. “I told them about you.”
Woohyun flinched and almost looked like he was going to fall over. “Y-you told them about me?” he stammered, his eyes wide in…fright?
“You’re my roommate,” Sunggyu defended himself loudly, as if the louder his voice was, the more right he was. Woohyun brought his knees to his chest and looked away. “Should I not have?” Sunggyu dropped his voice.
Woohyun faced him, but his gaze was still fixed on the floor. “Eh, um, it’s fine,” the tone of his voice showed that it really wasn’t.
Sunggyu was beginning to wonder if this was all a bad idea, forcing Woohyun into a social situation, thrusting friendship on him. It wasn’t like Woohyun ever looked sad alone. Only Sunggyu thought that being with others, having friends, was always better than being a loner. He step aside from the tv, and the smile returned to Woohyun’s face. Sunggyu chewed on his lip, pondering it over before he asked again, just to make sure, “So do you want to come?”
And to his surprise, Woohyun answered, “Okay.”
Myungsoo and Howon stared at Woohyun in amazement as the roommate slid into a seat next to Sunggyu. And Sunggyu knew exactly what they were thinking: But he looks normal. Now they probably understood how Sunggyu was initially deceived by Woohyun. He made a good first impression. Eventually, they got over the initial shock and introduced themselves.
It wasn’t as awkward as Sunggyu thought it would be. Woohyun knew how to carry a conversation, and after he found dramas as a common ground between him and Myungsoo, those two got along very well. Although Myungsoo geared the conversation mostly around My Love From Another Star and its alien lead, Woohyun still answered every question politely. Even when Myungsoo asked, ‘Do you think there are such things as aliens,’ Woohyun responded almost immediately with, ‘Of course,’ which Myungsoo seemed to take as proof of Woohyun’s other-worldliness.
Howon, on the other hand, was more observant of the roommate. He watched Woohyun’s every move and asked more pointed questions. Why didn’t he eat the kimchi? It was too spicy. Why didn’t he drink beer? Woohyun didn’t like the bubbles. Bubbles weren’t for ingesting (Sunggyu sniggered at that response, knowing the cause of it). What did he think of the latest soccer match? Well, that one Woohyun answered with more than a few sentences, and it launched Howon and Woohyun in a debate about the match and the best players on each side.
It was so normal that at one point in time, when Woohyun and Myungsoo were talking about Hana Kimi, Howon pointed at the roommate and mouthed, “Nam Woohyun?” Sunggyu nodded and took a long drink from his beer. Howon’s eyes widened in surprise and nodded.
Sunggyu could understand the surprise perfectly well. He was surprised too, pleasantly so. It was like when Woohyun hadn’t moved an inch from his spot in the living room the other day. Sunggyu began to feel proud again, as if he had something to do with it.
But in the end, Nam Woohyun was Nam Woohyun, and he almost set the whole restaurant on fire starting with Sunggyu’s sleeve of his (favorite) hoodie, which he then tried to put out with alcohol. Sunggyu had known that they shouldn’t have gone out for barbecue.
And if Sunggyu thought being set on fire by Woohyun was the worst that his roommate could do, he was wrong. Dead wrong. It all started on a Wednesday, when Sunggyu returned home from a long study session at the library and was about to take a well deserved nap in his bed, or on the couch, or on the floor in the entryway. He was exhausted. But the sight that greeted him inside of the apartment woke him right up.
“Oh my God!” Sunggyu shouted. He marched straight up to the television and turned the porn right off. “Don’t you have any sense of decency? Watch it in your bedroom on your laptop like every one else!”
“But I’m studying. I need to learn,” Woohyun argued. He waved to the screen with his pen. “I need the screen to be big enough so I can see all the details.”
“Details?” Sunggyu repeated, glaring at the other. He scoffed. “You’re a sick bastard, did you know that?”
“No,” Woohyun replied, shaking his head. He then jotted something down in his notebook.
“Were you taking notes on this?” Sunggyu asked in disbelief. He walked over and looked at the notes on the coffee table. He couldn’t believe what he was reading. It was almost scientifically detailed.
Woohyun then covered the notes with his arms. “Yea. Like I said. I’m studying,” he explained.
Sunggyu blinked a few times at Woohyun. It was hard to take him seriously in that grandpa bucket hat. Who even wears hats when they…that wasn’t the question Sunggyu needed to be asking. “What kind of film major are you?”
“Can you clear something up for me?” Woohyun quickly changed the subject, looking up at the other. He looked entirely perplexed. His eyebrows met at the middle.
“Sex,” Woohyun said aloud with no shame. Sunggyu could feel his face grow warm at the word alone…and Woohyun wasn’t even done yet. “I’m kind of getting mixed messages about it.” Sunggyu scoffed. Don’t we all. Woohyun continued, “In dramas, you do it with someone you love, or to get revenge on someone, or because you’re not getting enough attention from the person you normally have sex with so you have it with someone else. Then the Church says you can only have sex with someone you’re married to, or you go to Hell. And here…the man ordered pizza but the woman couldn’t pay with money, so they had sex….Also I’ve heard of one night stands, when people talk about sex. But how is that related? Aren’t you just standing for a whole night? AH! Can you do it while standing?” He finished, staring at Sunggyu, awaiting an answer. But Sunggyu had none to give. He was flabbergasted. His face and mind were blank. Woohyun smirked. “I’m right, aren’t I?” He began writing again in his notebook.
Sunggyu fell down into the couch as Woohyun was furiously writing. “You…you’re not normal,” he stammered.
“No, I’m not. But I’m trying,” Woohyun retorted. He put down his pen and grinned up at Sunggyu, who just continued to stare at him. There was something about Woohyun that Sunggyu was starting to see. It was an innocent curiosity. He truly meant nothing dirty with his words. There were no hidden innuendos, even when he tugged at Sunggyu’s pant leg and begged, “What about sex?”
“Huh?” Sunggyu was still taken a back by the question. But as the man who always ‘helped’ Woohyun, he supposed that one more time wouldn’t hurt. “Oh…I guess it’s different for everybody.” As Sunggyu went on he grew more excited; his voice was louder. He spoke faster, “It really depends on the person’s personality. Like if you’re shy and self-conscious, it’d be hard to be all…naked in front of someone. But then there are people who are more open and free, and they might be able to do it more easily. But’s not just about being an introvert or an extrovert. Some people are romantic and believe in love. Some don’t. Other people see it as fun, or a necessity. It really just depends.” He ended by letting out a great sigh. He didn’t expect to become so worked up, but maybe there was a reason.
Woohyun soaked in the information slowly and tapped his pen against the table. “But the end goal is to make a baby, right?” he suddenly asked.
“NO!” Sunggyu exclaimed through his sudden burst of laughter. After it abated, he seriously answered, “There are ways around that. And some couples can’t have babies…you should know that.”
It was obvious that Woohyun, indeed, didn’t know. “Yea, I do,” he lied and averted his gaze.
“You know because of infertility…or they’re…homosexual,” Sunggyu slowly gave the reason.
Woohyun hit the side of his head and muttered under his breath, “Ah! Right!” He then returned to his notes and drew giant stars next to, “man and woman make baby.” Sunggyu began to chuckle. How was Woohyun this naïve and was college age? Has his isolation helped maintain his innocence. It was almost…cute. “What about you, hyung? What’s sex for you?” Well, it was cute before that question. Now Woohyun’s curiosity was annoying.
“Non-existent,” Sunggyu truthfully replied nonetheless.
“Ah!” Woohyun uttered and nodded his head. He then turned his attention back to his notebook. Sunggyu leaned forward to see what he was writing. “Kim Sunggyu is asexual”
Sunggyu pulled the notebook away from the other and hit him over the head with it. “No, I’m not. Don’t write that down!” he yelled.
Woohyun was chuckling, covering his head with his arms, trying to fend off Sunggyu’s blows. “But you said…”
“It was a joke,” Sunggyu tried to explain himself.
Woohyun pulled away, laying down on the ground and his hat fell off his head. He was now too far away from Sunggyu’s reach to get hit again. “I was joking too,” he insisted with that usual smile on his face.
Sunggyu threw the notebook back onto the table. “Yea whatever,” he grumbled.
“I think I get it now,” Woohyun announced as he slowly got back up. “It’s different where I’m from. There, it’s a meeting with souls that are in the same rhythm.” He stopped briefly to put his hand over his heart and closed his eyes. He took in a deep breath before continuing, “Everything becomes one. Then back to two. And then three, a baby.” He opened up his eyes again and cocked his head. “But you can’t do it with just anyone. It’s not that easy for souls to be in synch.”
“What religion is that?” Sunggyu asked.
“Mine,” the other quickly answered as he picked up his notebook and stood up. He then smiled at Sunggyu and said, “And it’s not a religion. It’s a truth.” He walked away, heading for his bedroom.
“Woohyun?” Sunggyu called out to him before Woohyun reached the doorway to the bedroom. “Who are you?”
The roommate turned around and spoke dark words with a cheery smile on his face, “I’d tell you…but then I’d have to kill you.” He then waved at the other. “Night, Gyu!”
“Night,” Sunggyu wished lifelessly back.
On Friday, Sunggyu was on a high. That night was one of the rare nights that he got to spend with his special friend. They were able to meet up around once a week. Of course, Sunggyu wished that it was more often than that, but Sunggyu was a med student. He had tests and labs. And his boyfriend was an investment banker, spending late nights and early mornings in the office. However, they worked around their busy schedules. They usually met up on Sundays, eating brunch together and talking about their weeks. They spent the whole day eating and talking. But Sunggyu preferred nights like these, the random midnight trysts. The promise of something more than food and conversation. The hope of spending the night at the other’s place (and away from bizarre roommates). It had been so long since they’ve acted like a true couple.
But like every meeting they had, it started with food. They met at a late-night restaurant to have chicken and beer. It wasn’t the most romantic of places, but it suited them. Chimaek was tried and true as they were. It was a classic.
And just as Sunggyu clinked his second glass of beer against his boyfriend’s, a sudden knock on the window almost caused him to spill it all over. Please, please don’t let it be…he prayed in his mind. He screwed his eyes tight, refusing to even glance over at the window.
“Hey,” his boyfriend whispered in his ear. He tapped Sunggyu’s shoulder and pointed at the window. “Do you know him?”
Sunggyu gulped and slowly turned his head towards the window. Woohyun was pressing his nose against the surface, his breath fogging up the glass, and his hair matted against the window. Sunggyu’s eyes met his. “No,” he said both to his boyfriend and to Woohyun.
But it was a rare occasion when Woohyun listened to him. He nodded his head and headed on over to the store’s entrance. Sunggyu groaned as he buried his head in his hands. He felt his boyfriend’s grip tighten around his shoulders.
“Gyu-yah, who’s this?” he asked. Sunggyu looked up and saw Woohyun standing right in front of them. He then slid into the booth, right across from them.
Sunggyu ran his hand through his hair, clutching it tightly, getting ready to tear it from the roots. “This kid…aish…he’s…” he blubbered unable to answer. Why? Well, because Sunggyu hadn’t gotten the chance to tell his boyfriend about Woohyun yet. Sunggyu was a little preoccupied with other thoughts whenever they met (and his boyfriend mostly monopolized the conversation), and he also wanted to forget all about Nam Woohyun.
“Woohyun, his roommate,” his roommate answered in his stead. “Who are you?”
“Yooseokie…” Sunggyu began in a gentle tone, trying to prematurely soothe his boyfriend, but he was too late. Yooseok was already looking at him with hurt eyes.
“I thought that you were living with Busan,” Yooseok’s tone was already accusing.
Sunggyu sighed but tried his best to maintain his calm. “He got married, remember?”
“Who are you?” Woohyun interrupted and began to chip away at Sunggyu’s patience.
“Ah, right the wedding in Busan. Of course,” Yooseok muttered lowly. He then removed his arm away from Sunggyu’s shoulder and crossed his arms across his chest. Sunggyu wasn’t quite sure what he had done, but it surely pissed his boyfriend off. “You could have told me that you wanted a roommate. I would’ve moved in with you,” Yooseok grumbled. Oh that, Sunggyu thought and dropped his gaze to his own lap.
Woohyun reached over the table and tapped Sunggyu on the shoulder. “Who is he?” he whispered loudly, pointing at Yooseok.
Sunggyu slapped away his roommate’s hand and faced Yooseok. “I live too far away from your office. You get little sleep as it is,” he reasoned.
“Then you could’ve…” Yooseok began but then he was cut off by someone who was tired of being ignored.
“Who are you?” Woohyun asked, almost shouting.
“Damn it, Woohyun!” Sunggyu cursed, slamming his glass down on the table. The entire night was crumbling right before his eyes.
“I’m Yooseok,” his boyfriend introduced himself, in a tone deeper than usual. He extended his hand to Woohyun. “Sunggyu’s boyfriend.”
Woohyun looked at the hand for a second and then shook it tentatively. Afterwards, his gaze quickly went to Sunggyu as he exclaimed, returning to his chipper self, “AH! So you really aren’t asexual. You didn’t lie.”
“Asexual?” Yooseok was now intrigued and even chuckled as he repeated that word.
“Just ignore him,” Sunggyu brushed it off, or at least tried to. “It was a weird assumption to make in the first place.”
“Not weird,” Woohyun argued. “You said that sex was non-existent for you. It’s a logical conclusion. But…” He then cocked his head, crossed his arms over his chest and looked Yooseok up and down. “…if you have a lover, aren’t you supposed to make love?”
“Woohyun!” Sunggyu whined, letting his head fall against the table. He should have never said that to Woohyun. He should never say things to Woohyun again. His roommate was too much of a loose cannon, and the only thing that was predictable about him was that Woohyun was going to mess up everything for Sunggyu.
“Are you shy?” Woohyun whispered loudly again. He then pointed to Yooseok. “Is he shy?” He clapped his hands together and exclaimed, “Ah! Is this a religious thing?”
Yooseok then turned his entire body towards his boyfriend, almost cornering Sunggyu against the window. “Sunggyu, why were you talking to this stranger about our sex life?” his voice was eerily calm.
“I didn’t!” Sunggyu insisted, waving his hands in the air.
“He did,” Woohyun interjected and Sunggyu shot him a nasty glare.
Sunggyu then let out a deep breath and faced his boyfriend again. “I mean…I didn’t mean to?” he hoped that was an acceptable answer.
And it wasn’t. “What else does he know? What else did you tell him?” Yooseok demanded.
This time Woohyun answered for him, “A male and a female make babies.”
The boyfriends stared blankly at the man across from them. Sunggyu shook his head and broke the silence, “Nothing else. I swear!”
“Nothing?” Yooseok repeated. His eyebrows furrowed as the gears were meshing in his brain, processing the answer. He then faced forward again and matched his eyes with the roommate’s. “Woohyun-ssi, has Sunggyu ever told you about me?” Sunggyu winced at the question.
“Yooseok, please,” Sunggyu begged, tugging on the other’s sleeve, trying to get him to look over. He didn’t. “I’ve known him for only a month. I didn’t want to scare him off. Some people get weirded out at the idea of living with…you know, someone that could be attracted to them,” Sunggyu tried to explain himself.
“I’m not,” Woohyun adamantly denied. “It’s not weird.”
Yooseok snorted and broke out into a short chuckle that made Sunggyu chill to the bone. “Exactly. It’s not weird at all…unless…” Yooseok finally looked over at Sunggyu. “Unless you’re actually attracted to him.”
This time Sunggyu laughed. It sounded a little forced, but the notion was still laughable to Sunggyu, preposterous. “Yooseok, come on. Don’t be ridiculous,” he said lightly and tapped the other on the shoulder.
But that still didn’t answer Yooseok’s question. “Well, are you?”
“Yea, are you?” Woohyun interjected once again. He was grinning from ear to ear. “People say that I’m good looking.” He put his hand underneath his chin in a shape of a V, framing his jawline.
“Wh-what? You have to be kidding me,” Sunggyu was taken aback by all of this. “Of course not,” he denied. “Woohyun is just…” his voice caught in his throat as he glanced over at Woohyun. His head was hanging low, and his lips pouted deeply. Sunggyu couldn’t even see the other’s eyes because his head was so low, but he knew full well what they would’ve looked like, like a sad puppy that had been caught in the rain with no where to go.
“Oh, I see. They were lying,” Woohyun mumbled, his finger dragging across the table.
“Woohyun-ah! Don’t do this to me,” Sunggyu begged. This wasn’t making the situation any better. Sunggyu knew Woohyun. He knew him well. Woohyun was just upset because his pride had taken a hit. He probably wanted to be seen as attractive by everybody, and for some unknown reason, he valued Sunggyu’s opinion a lot. You tell me what things are, Sunggyu recalled. Shit. He probably really doesn’t think he’s handsome just because I…When they were home, Sunggyu would have to make amends. But not now. If he did that now, someone would get the wrong idea.
“He looks a little too sad.” Crap. It was too late. Yooseok had already noticed. He had noticed and was already formulating all of the wrong ideas.
Sunggyu laughed loudly, treating all of this like it were a joke, just like his life was right now. “He’s faking it, right Woohyun?” He leaned over the table and tapped Woohyun’s hand.
“No,” Woohyun retorted and retracted his hand, placing both of them in his lap. “I’m ugly.”
Sunggyu cursed underneath his breath. He had to come entirely clean to Yooseok. Even though it was probably rude to reveal this without Woohyun’s consent, and definitely rude to reveal in his presence, Sunggyu was going to tell Yooseok everything that he knew about Woohyun and about how he might be socially disabled. He leaned over and spoke lowly into his boyfriend’s ear, “Yooseok, Woohyun is actually not well, he’s…”
Yooseok shrugged his boyfriend off and asked, “Woohyun-ssi, do you like Sunggyu?”
Sunggyu braced himself for Woohyun’s inevitable answer. “Of course!”
Yooseok cast one last hurt look to Sunggyu and got up from the table. “I can’t believe this,” he muttered.
“Yooseok! where are you?” Sunggyu called after him, but it was too late. He had already left thr restaurant. “Aish!” Sunggyu cursed and chased after his boyfriend. Luckily, Yooseok was only a few paces away from the door, like he wanted to be caught up by the other, which meant Sunggyu still had a chance of salvaging the night and everything. “Yah! What’s your problem?” That might’ve not been the best way to start the conversation, but Sunggyu’s blood was still boiling.
“My problem? Well let’s see, my boyfriend chose to live with some other guy than even think of living with me,” Yooseok answered.
“I did!” Sunggyu insisted. “I did think about it. And this is better.”
Yooseok scrunched his face, puzzled. “Living with Woohyun is better?” he combatted.
“Yah! Don’t twist my words!” Sunggyu retorted, waving a finger at the other. “You know it. You’re closer to work. I’m closer to school. It’ll only be until I graduate then…”
Yooseok cut him off, “Then it’ll be until your residency is over because you’re closer to the hospital. Then after that, God I don’t know. The moon looks better from your apartment than mine, or some shit like that.”
Sunggyu scoffed, “Don’t exaggerate.”
His boyfriend shook his head, chuckling sadly to himself. “I’m not wrong though,” he fought back. “You’d rather live with that weird kid than with me.”
“That’s not true,” Sunggyu denied, walking up to him and rested an hand on his shoulder. Yooseok let him. Embolding by that, Sunggyu let his hand travel down the other’s arm and grabbed his hand.
And Yooseok’s gaze was fixed on those intertwined hands as he muttered, “He likes you.”
“Woohyun didn’t mean it like that,” Sunggyu dismissed it.
Yooseok looked up at the other and raised an eyebrow. “He looked like he did,” he challenged. Sunggyu let go of the other’s hands and put both of them into the pockets of his hoodie. “What?”
“You’re acting weird,” Sunggyu pointed out, looking the other up and down.
“No, I’m not.”
“Yes, you are!” Sunggyu shouted. “You’re trying to pick a fight!”
“Woohyun-ssi wasn’t lying,” Yooseok said firmly, as if he knew something Sunggyu didn’t
“I told you,” Sunggyu groaned while stamping his foot. He was growing tired of repeating himself. “He doesn’t like me like that.”
“No, I didn’t mean that,” Yooseok denied with a shake of his head. Sunggyu looked at him curiously. “Lovers should make love, and we haven’t done that in a long time,” Yooseok elaborated.
That was what tonight was for, was on the tip of Sunggyu’s tongue, but he didn’t want to be presumptuous, especially after what had just happened and with Yooseok’s oddly combative and agitated mood. “We’re busy,” Sunggyu reasoned, and that was always their reason. How many times had Yooseok said that to Sunggyu? ‘I’m busy. I can’t go with you to the wedding.’ or ‘I’m busy. I can’t make it to dinner tonight.’ How many times had Sunggyu accepted it as a legitimate answer?
But it wasn’t ever the right one. Yooseok shook his head. “We’re not in love anymore,” that was the real reason, but the both of them had refused to accept it.
Sunggyu especially. “Yooseokkie,” he begged the other, reaching for his hand again.
“Also the sex isn’t non-existent for me.”
Sunggyu let his hand drop back to his side. “You-you cheated?”
“Are we even together anymore?” Yooseok challenged. “I see my clients more than I see you.” He then sighed and avoided Sunggyu’s gaze, opting to look down the street instead. “This has been over for awhile.”
“Since when?” Sunggyu couldn’t stop his voice from cracking.
“Since we graduated and you lived with Busan instead of me,” Yooseok answered plainly.
Sunggyu caught the other’s gaze. “We’re both med students. It made sense. You live with other investment people,” he pointed out.
Yooseok shook his head and laughed again. It didn’t sound sad this time. It was condescending. “No it doesn’t make sense. We should want to live together, even if it’s hard.” Sunggyu didn’t know what hurt more: the laughing or those words.
“Why are you making me the bad guy when you’re the one who cheated?” he growled, his hand turning into fists.
“Who do you think made me bad?”
Sunggyu punched Yooseok in the face.
With a bruised fist (maybe he shouldn’t have aimed at the jaw) and a freshly broken heart, Sunggyu dragged his feet back to the table, where Woohyun was still there and munching on the remaining chicken. Sunggyu didn’t know what exactly led him back to the table. But then it caught his eye. Ah yes, the beer, his amber draught from the River of Lethe that will make him forget everything this evening. Especially the man still sitting across from him. Sunggyu was going to drink until he forgot Woohyun’s name.
“So the eldest pays in this culture, right hyung?” What perfect timing that Woohyun chose to finally abide by Korean custom. Sunggyu growled. He would’ve hit Woohyun too, but his hand still kind of hurt. “Okay okay,” Woohyun tried to defuse the other’s anger and smiled apologetically.
“For tonight, I’m older. Imo! Another glass of beer please!”
Woohyun was right: lovers should make love. But Yooseok was right too: lovers should want to live together, even if it was hard. However, Sunggyu never really wanted to live with Yooseok. He was a light sleeper, and Sunggyu studied until late and was naturally loud. Yooseok would’ve woken up, and after awhile that would lead to a fight. Sunggyu was also messy, and Yooseok was a bit of a neat freak. Even though they loved each other, Sunggyu would get eventually yelled at for never washing the dishes. And when he did wash them, he’d get reprimanded that he didn’t do it correctly. Every situation Sunggyu could think of, he saw it as another opportunity for them to fight. Picking out furniture, they would argue over prices and affordability. Making dinner, they would fight over whose turn it was or who was the most tired. At every turn, a fight.
Living apart was supposed to save their relationship, give time for Sunggyu to grow neater and quieter and enjoy cooking. But it didn’t. It only caused the rift between them to grow wider. Yooseok never even knew Howon’s name, only meeting him once or twice, and always referred to him as ‘Busan.’ But Sunggyu had never minded before because he didn’t even know who Yooseok lived with either.
But that was all too rational for Sunggyu to think of right now. Now he was shit-faced and being lugged back to his apartment by Woohyun. No, the reason for their break-up wasn’t that they’d drifted apart. It was because of Nam Woohyun and his big mouth. If Woohyun hadn’t shown up, everything would’ve been fine. Yes, Yooseok was still a cheater, but Sunggyu would’ve still been in the dark. He would’ve been sober. He would’ve been happy. Hell, he might’ve even got laid, but Nam Woohyun had to destroy his relationship just like he ruined everything else that he owned.
“You!” Sunggyu slapped Woohyun on the cheek and dragged it down his face. He was now being dragged up the stairs, with an arm tossed around his roommate’s shoulders. But Sunggyu still kept slapping his sober buddy’s cheek nevertheless. “Tomorrow, you’re gone. I don’t wanna see you. Mmmmove out!” he slurred.
“Gyu…” Woohyun looked over at him. He looked more hurt than when Sunggyu implied that he wasn’t handsome.
Sunggyu had to stop him from talking. He was sick and tired of Woohyun being pitful and making him feel guilty. “No. No talking,” Sunggyu demanded. He then leaned closer to put a hand over the other’s mouth. But then, Woohyun could still speak to him through those sad eyes. Sunggyu had to cover those too. But what about those furry ears? Looking at them made Sunggyu feel bad too. He needed to cover those up as well. Hell, he’ll just cover Woohyun’s entire face, and Sunggyu would never feel pity again.
But since Woohyun couldn’t speak, see, nor hear, he stumbled backwards. He was also pushed back by Sunggyu throwing all of his weight on the other. The two of them began to fall backwards.
But they never fell down the stairs. Something stopped them. Sunggyu opened his eyes and wondered how drunk he actually was. Woohyun suddenly had four arms. Two were circled around Sunggyu’s waist, preventing him from falling down. And the other two gripped at the railing, holding the both of them in place. But that wasn’t all. His ears, they grew longer and…floppier? Like a dog or a bunny or a cross between the two. And two long antennae sprouted from the top of his purple mop.
Sunggyu’s eyes grew wider as the realization slowly dawned on him: his roommate was an alien.